Jan. 17 2012 12:00 AM

Sulu'ape Angela Bolson at Big City Tattoo practices the traditional technique

Sulu'ape Angela (left) with one of her clients

When most people picture getting a tattoo, they envision a pierced-up, heavily inked dude with a tattoo gun.

Sulu'ape Angela Bolson shatters that stereotype. You can find Bolson in a small room at Big City Tattoo in North Park, kneeling on a mat with her clients, strange-looking tools in-hand, with a team of female "stretchers" helping her pull a client's skin taught so she can employ the hand-tap tattoo technique. She learned the traditional art form by apprenticing for a year and a half under a hand-tap master in Western Samoa.---

In Samoa, tattoo artists use bone tools for their trade. The process is painful and can take a significant amount of time. In the United States, where sterilization and time are on everyone's minds, Bolson uses specially made stainless-steel tools that mimic their organic counterparts. She says she's learned how to speed up the process over the years and most of her clients describe the hand-tap tattoo as less painful than getting inked with a gun; Bolson says she's even had a few folks fall asleep while getting a hand-tap tattoo.

Bolson is one of the only women in the world trained in the traditional hand-tap technique. Press play and learn more about hand-tap tattoos, why and how Bolson learned the technique, what some of the traditional tribal tattoo patterns mean and more. 

Sulu'ape Angela Bolson with her team of stretchers


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